Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Latest Litany of LSD

(Ed. note: FYI My brother Dave’s PET scan came back clear. So he started chemo today. He does have fluid around his rt lung but it is not causing any breathing issues so the are hoping that it absorbs.) 

Today we present you with some of that good old LSD many of you were so fond of in your younger days.

L as in Line-up

We were in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago and as we passed Marks and Spencers and The Gap, we saw this long line up on the sidewalk. It was Easter Sunday – not that the Chinese celebrate Easter, but you can’t keep them away from good dumplings. Yes dumplings. I got up on a lamp standard to get this photo. I don’t think the guy who was making a video of it from the sidewalk was impressed when I used his left shoulder to help me get up. But, he WAS standing there. Anyway, the line came out the door, swung south on to Maoming North Road for about a whack of people and then turned itself back  north on Maoming North Road back to East Nanjing Road where it turned west and away it went. We figure there were over 500 people lined up. Who knew dumplings could be so desirable.

Left: Going west on East Nanjing Road Right: Going south and north on Maoming North Road.

Left: Going west on East Nanjing Road
Right: Going south and north on Maoming North Road.

S as in Strawberry

While Terry was getting a facial done at Sanctuary (Ed. note: Why is it that every kind of cool place in Shanghai is on the fourth floor with no elevator? My favourite tattoo parlour, my favourite picture framing store, Terry’s favourite spa) While she was doing that I found myself a bar in Tian Zi Fang – one of the quirkiest places we have come across. I would say that it is about 1 square downtown Vancouver block. It houses 15 – 20 lanes with over 200 shops selling standard tourist stuff and shops selling non standard tourist stuff and a multitude of bars and restaurants. Since I am off to Ireland in a month to play some golf, I dedicated my search to finding the Bell Bar – a quiet Irish pub in the midst of chaos.

An atypical Tian Zi Fang lane and in the corner the Bell Bar. My stool was the one on the left.

An atypical quiet but typical narrow Tian Zi Fang lane and in the corner the Bell Bar. My stool was the one on the left. The day I was there the lanes looked more like the line up in the past photo.

Let's have a quick vote: Which is worse 1. Diluting an entire bottle of Glenfiddich or 2. Making your own Strawberry Whiskey and foisting it on an unsuspecting public?

Let’s have a quick vote: Which is worse 1. Diluting an entire bottle of Glenfiddich with water to make more money* or 2. Making your own Strawberry Whiskey and foisting it on an unsuspecting public?

D as in Do Not Display

Saw this in CityShop – the grocery store which has everything an expat could want from home – and charges us for it.

Every package had the same little label.

Every package had the same little label in the top right corner. Then maybe, I don’t know, remove it?

Okay enough of a “trip” down memory lane – but you know what they say about remembering the 6os.

D is for Door to Nowhere

We went for a walk last Saturday (8.3 km) to find the Farmers Painting and Art Centre. It was open but the shopping store was closed. Came across this wall which ran for about 500 feet. Now it may look like that building is attached somehow to the wall but it isn’t. And the door is one which most people in China seem to use as their home’s front door.

The door to nowhere

The Door to Nowhere

D is for Daring, Drinking and Disgusting

As we near the end of our time, stay, experience, adventure, whatever, Terry has become a little emboldened. On Saturday night she went for the chicken feet and last night it was responding to a toast from our host to “ganbei” which is bottoms up. Not only was it a school night but that is a glass of not too bad red wine! No idea why she thought she had to close her eyes, though.

You go girl!

You go girl!

On Saturday night we were at the Old Wood Village Coffee House and Bar* where we met some local Jiaxing characters. They were a lot of fun – they even picked up our bill of the drinks* we had before we met them. Then they invited us to dinner last night. From the people we met on Saturday only the host was able to make it so, as they do, they invited other friends.

(Ed. note: *It was here that the owners thought they could improve profits by diluting the bottles of Glenfiddich with water.)

That is a duck head coming out of my mouth.

That is a duck head coming out of my mouth and in Terry’s hand. Paul on the right is a teacher from Poland.

Make Over?

Make Over Time?

Now try to follow this – our host (not in pictures) is a wholesale exporter of baby’s clothing. The guy in the top photo standing is married to the woman beside me. Their business is – wait for it – a media company where you go in for a makeover to become famous. Neither Terry nor Cheryl thought they would feel comfortable putting themselves in these two’s hands. And to top it off, the guy spent an awfully long time during dinner spitting on to the floor, burping, smoking but not, thank goodness, picking his nose (not an unknown occurrence in China).

D is for Driving

We present a new, ongoing feature of our blog. It is called China: A Culture of Non-Maintenance

Well, he had to get out, didn't he.

Well, he had to get out, didn’t he.

This is an area of lawn beside the local parking lot. When they can’t get their car out the “normal” way (Ed. note: Whatever that may be in China) they just drive over the grass or through the mud and then down the walking path. It never gets repaired.

The Shoe Blog

On our walk on Sunday (10.1 kms) we saw this young woman outside the restaurant where she worked.

The straps are diamonds, the buckle gold and the heels high!

The straps are diamonds, the buckles gold and the heels high! (Ed. note: Ha ha only 1/3 are true)

Dave’s Story

Dave is my older brother. He and his wife, Debbi, live in Florida in a small retirement community near Orlando. In September, 2014, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer after experiencing some discomfort when swallowing. The diagnosis was shocking but also not entirely surprising, since cancers of the abdominal organs seem to be a bit of a curse in our family. My dad’s parents both died in their 50s of an undiagnosed disease, which might have been stomach cancer. Several of my dad’s brothers have died of pancreatic cancer and my father died of prostrate cancer, which was discovered too late and ultimately spread energetically and enthusiastically, in spite of all the treatments. A mutant gene is at large in the Adolf system which, for the moment, seems mainly to attack our males.

So Dave got the diagnosis and waited for the prognosis, which wasn’t great. The best possibility lay with an immediate and powerful regimen of chemo. If the results were good, then he would become a candidate for surgery, which would be followed by more chemo to wipe out the last of the mutant cells. We waited hopefully until the end of 2014, when he was told that the chemo had worked and he was now a good candidate for surgery. He was scheduled for early February for the 9 hour procedure to remove his entire stomach (and, it turned out, 6 cms. of his oesophagus). It was carried out without a hitch (apparently there are always hitches with this operation but everything is relative). The chemo had worked so well that his entire stomach (mostly tumour at this stage) was leather-like, a good sign. He survived and was installed with a feeding tube and a blood filter in his vein to catch errant clots, for which he would be at high risk.

The next six weeks went well. Dave has to learn to live without a stomach, which meant learning how to eat again, with a diet lacking many of the high fibre breads and vegetables he loves, and replaced with a plethora of soft, easily digested foods, many of which were drinkable. He was also fed supplements via the feeding tube. The goal was to increase his daily caloric intake to 1800 per day; then the annoying tube could be removed.

Things were going well. Dave’s calorie count was at 1200. He was walking in the neighbourhood, visiting with the many friends and neighbours who dropped by to see how he was doing. His colour was good and he was growing stronger and feeling more and more positive everyday. He reached the six week anniversary of the operation and decided it was time to have the clot filter in his artery removed—they cannot be left in indefinitely. So an appointment was made: come to the clinic on this day and the 40 minute procedure will be done with local anesthetic, no problem. Dave and Deb arrived at the scheduled time, Dave to the operating room and Deb to wait.

I can only imagine Deb’s feelings as hour after hour passed while she waited for this “simple” procedure to be completed. Dave, meanwhile, was consciously sedated and doing his best to remain still while the doctors fought with the blood filter, now incorrectly lodged inside his artery. I have seen pictures of this device and can describe it to you like this: imagine a Daddy Long Legs. Imagine a ring is attached to the top of its body. Now imagine that the legs have tiny outward-facing hooks on them. To insert this filter, an open-ended sack-like cover is pulled over the legs so they are wrapped, and a fine string is attached to the ring, which is then pulled through the vein to its resting place, where the sack is removed and the legs fall open and attach, via the tiny hooks, to the inside walls of the vein. To remove, so goes the theory, one simply reverses the process, going in with the sack, hooking on to the ring, covering the legs while releasing the hooks, and pull it home. The problem became apparent as soon as the docs spied the filter, lodged crookedly in the vein where cells from the walls had begun growing around the ring. First the ring had to be cut free before the legs could be retracted, but no sooner had they done that than the filter legs broke free from one side and attached themselves to the other. Finally, 9 hours later, they had it out and Dave was freed. His body immediately went into shock, from relief or trauma matters not. I suspect that Deb underwent a similar response internally but someone has to keep it together. She slept that night in Dave’s clinic room, completely unprepared for the stay. Didn’t even have a toothbrush.

Back home, Dave was much as you might think—worn out, depleted really, taking everything bit by bit. On the second day home, he confessed to Deb that he thought he had thrown a blood clot . She took him to emergency in the local hospital.

Things did not go smoothly in the hospital. Although there is a cancer ward on the same floor as he was, there were no rooms available, so he shared a double with an interesting parade of people. Colourful wouldn’t have describe the scene but it’s more of a story over a glass of wine than blog material. (Ed. note: Trust me, take her up on that!) Once Dave was road-worthy, the three of us would go for a couple of laps around the ward, chatting and purposefully getting Dave out of bed and off his poor rump for awhile.

If you’ve spent longer periods of time in the hospital, you know to dread shift changes and weekends especially, when anyone who knows your story disappears. Thus it was with Dave who found himself explaining over and over again what his situation was, why he wasn’t finishing lunch (“I don’t have a stomach” worked fairly well), why he wanted someone to look at his feeding tube as it was leaking too much. Some of the nurses were great but there were those who were just downright ornery. One of the latter types put us off many times until Deb reported her to a supervisor. When we showed her the soaked dressing around his feeding tube, she brought the nurse into the room and demonstrated how to do it properly and immediately. We understood that, as everywhere, they are understaffed and busy but still, this nurse added frustration to Dave’s stay. We were equally stymied, as was the doctor, when Dave couldn’t get a laxative brought up from the dispensary in less than 18 hours. Other things happened that made me want to tear my hair out. One doctor voiced his disbelieve that Dave’s operation had taken 9 hours. On another day, he doubted that Dave’s blood count had dropped dramatically. We were all pretty happy in the end, however, when it turned out he was right about the blood (Ed. note: But wrong about the operation length). A nurse had made a mistake when drawing blood and had diluted the sample. Sigh. Finally, on Saturday, we got a nurse who usually works the cancer ward take particular care with Dave and promised to move him to that ward as soon as a bed became available, which she did a day later.

We did have some good moments. One was during a discussion about what he could eat to vary his diet enough to be encouraging once he got home. Debbi said that he could eat any of the small packaged left-overs she had prepared for him. He said he had tried but couldn’t identify what the food was. Deb doubted this was possible. Says Dave, “I opened up the container and couldn’t tell what it was. I subsequently learned that it was chicken broth but at the time I couldn’t tell.” “Where the heck are we?” I say, “a courtroom? Are you a lawyer—‘I subsequently learned it was chicken broth?’” We all burst out laughing, especially Dave who was trying to restrain himself but just couldn’t do it. Hey, you have to take your kicks where you can get them. We still laugh just talking about it.

By the time I had to leave for Shanghai, Dave was still in the hospital and ended up staying another 2 nights. He’s been home now for a number of weeks and seen his surgeon and oncologist. Both of them want him to be stronger and able to eat a bit more before he resumes chemo, which seems sensible to me. His fantastic surgeon is a calming influence on Dave as he is able to explain away the various mishaps in the hospital and put his progress into perspective. As of this writing, Dave has had a PET scan and they are waiting for the results; chemo has been put off another week.

I sent him this blog before publishing for editing purposes. He told me that he got quite emotional when Deb read it to him, thinking about how his life has unfolded this last 8 months. It’s hard to imagine what he has to go through in relearning not only how to eat but also how to recognize the signs of hunger, thirst and nausea. He will pull through this if will has anything to do with it. He is completely focused and determined, not only to survive, but also to outlive his prognosis and his dad. I’m betting he’ll be around for a long time yet.

Debbi and Dave

Debbi and Dave

From Outfits to Shoes and All the Sights in Between

Hello. How have you all been since last we chatted? We have been well, thank you. You may have surmised that we are leading quite a sedate life here in Jiaxing, given the increasing infrequency of blog postings, and you would be correct. It now takes a couple of weeks for enough TIC moments to come together to share.

However I now have a few thoughts to share.


Here are a couple of people who thought they looked good when they left the house in the morning. The first is a 50 something woman going to the train station. Now it may very well be quite a comfortable outfit, but really…

Maybe a touch too much Paul Frank?

Oh my, maybe a touch too much Paul Frank? And do you think the plaid backpack clashes a tad?

Sadly this photo does not do the whole outfit justice. The skirt was far more “blowy” than it looks. She then plopped herself astride a motorcycle and away they went.

No - the blue is not a hat; it is just something in the background. Something tells me she wasn't happy about the photo.

No – the blue is not a hat; it is just something in the background. Something tells me she wasn’t happy about the photo.

Aaahhh The Kids

Terry and I went to get our hair the other day. This little guy was a hoot. He didn’t cry at all, but kept his eyes scrunched up everytime the stylists put the scissors in his hair and gradually lowered his torso until his head was almost touching his knees and the stylist would pull him up and start again. Amazing patience shown by the stylist!

Looked pretty cool at the end though.

Looked pretty cool at the end though.

This little guy was on the train going in to Shanghai. There is no story but check out those cheeks!

I'm thinking he is not missing many meals.

I’m thinking he is not missing many meals.

Let’s go back to the salon for a minute. This young woman is the hostess or greeter at the door. Between welcoming clients she sits on her stool and – wait for it – uses a qtip to clean her ears. Now behind her and also on the counter are piles of tea boxes which you can also purchase from the hair salon. Oh, and all those liquor bottles on the shelf and the wine glasses – just for show. Can’t even get a warm – let alone a cold – beer!

At least they are clean!

At least they are clean!

These two guys belong to a shoe maker. The cat is resting on the modem and keeping warm. The Westie was just so darn cute!

For all you pet lovers

For all you pet lovers

The User 

(Ed. note: Sorry – no photos) I was at the Shanghai train station the other day charging my phone and portable power pack at one of the power kiosks they have. I had charged it for about 5 minutes when a young Chinese man comes over and shows me his iPhone 6. Very nice – I have a 5. Then he shows me that it is almost out of power and asks if he could borrow my cable so he can charge his phone. I am somewhat taken aback, but the new flexible, sensitive Geoff says sure and gives it to him. Now my phone won’t be charged enough to get me home with my book and my reading, but one more Chinese citizen thinks Canadians are great.

The Stalker

I am at the Jiaxing train station to go in to Shanghai for my regular cardio rehab. A woman sits down on a stool about 25 feet away and starts clearing her throat. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the PRC so although I hear it, I pay little attention and don’t look up. Then she starts making unusual sounds and I finally look up to see that she is looking and smiling at yours truly. I quickly go back to my book. She is not to be ignored however and starts to yip like a little dog. Stupidly I look up and she is still looking and smiling at me. When I look down, she starts making louder attention seeking noises, but thank goodness the train is called and I am out of there.

Don’t fear – there is more.

I get on the train and settle in for the 30 minute trip. I have the window seat and there is someone next to me. About 8 minutes out of Shanghai, the man across the aisle from me gets up and moves off down the train. Guess who immediately plops herself down in that seat – and progresses to continue to stare across and smile at me. Yes. But I am okay because I am protected by my seat mate. That lasts for about 2 minutes until he decides to leave. Now she is ecstatic because she is sitting right next to me. I am less ecstatic, but manage to get a photo for you – for which she poses. On the back of each seat back is a fairly large knob for hanging your coat on. (Ed. note: You can see one on the seat across the aisle.) As we approach Shanghai – 2 minutes out, I stand up and she puts her hand on the knob blocking me from getting out. Now the people around are watching all this – waiting to see what happens. I just stand there – keeping my mouth closed and making no movement – I do not want an altercation with a Chinese woman – particularly a crazy one. After a little bit she drops her hand and moves out into the aisle. I break all the rules and go out the other way never to see her again.

She is looking at me and not into the camera...

She is looking at me and not into the camera…

What more can I say? At 63 I am still a chick magnet!

The Shoe Blog

We were in Shanghai last weekend for an admin conference – well Terry was there for the conference, I was there as a change of Starbucks pace. I took this from the Starbucks at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium – it is about the size of the Agrodome and the area around it is all these paving stones. The young woman in blue left this spot and walked all the way around it – took about 25 minutes to do. I would bet she needed a foot massage by the end of the day!

They look good with the jeans and sweater.

They look good with the jeans and sweater.

(Ed. note: Terry has promised to produce a blog this weekend regaling you with tales of the American Medical System at its … let’s go with most unbelievable.)